Last night was Neve Daniel’s 30th birthday and what a celebration it was. There were bouncy toys for the kids to enjoy, a ropes course for slightly older kids, hot dogs and hamburgers, and many vendors from the yishuv. It was, as most activities are around here, a very heimish, cozy, come-out-and-have-fun-with-your-neighbors type of evening.
And I loved every minute of it.
Thinking about what 30 years means, I realized that we’ve lived in Neve Daniel for over 25% of its life. It’s ironic and telling that I should be reflecting on Neve Daniel’s birthday as we approach our 8th anniversary of Aliyah next week and as we think about the Fourth of July tomorrow.
I’ve got nothing against the 4th of July – nothing at all. It’s a great opportunity to have time off from work, to have a barbeque or beach day and to enjoy with family and friends. What it’s not, however, for most people is a day that reverberates anymore with the history of the country or with the experience of the Founding Fathers. Hundreds of years later, it’s hard to stay connected to these events – quite understandably. One example of this just played out on the political stage this week in Israel. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir died and was buried just this week. As a man who was so instrumental in the State, before its founding and after, his burial would be like watching and being part of Thomas Jefferson or John Adam’s demise.
And that’s certainly why these events for us are so poignant. I’ve been part of the yishuv for over 25% of its life. What a baby Neve Daniel is! They talked last night about how the yishuv started with two families who braved the incredible odds to live in two tents at the top of our mountain for months on end.
Now, if you haven’t been to Neve Daniel before, you might not know this – but it’s hard to endure the winters at times…indoors…with my heat on! I simply cannot imagine what it meant to bring a family to a rugged, barren location with no central road to get here, with no friendly neighbors (a bit of an understatement) and with nothing here. And here they sat with a vision and a dream…
At times when I get frustrated with how things work in the yishuv, or in the country in general, I have to remember just how young she really is. 30 years old. Neve Daniel is younger than I am. How much can I expect from such a young lady? But how much have I already been given from her?
Menachem Fried, one of the founders of the Yishuv, spoke as well. He reflected on those first months as one of the two families who braved the way and came back to the land that we had pined for for thousands of years; the land that we were driven from in ’48. And today, standing on the stage, he remarked how beautiful it is to see 450 families together today in our Yishuv.
It’s hard to put into words what it means to be part of something. I think one of the great secrets to life is finding a way to be part of something. Whether that means that you join a religious group or center, that you find a sport you love and connect with others there, that you find a hobby, that you build a family, etc. Connections and being part of the whole are a huge part, I believe, of what makes us feel whole.
And being part of a 450 family strong yishuv, and knowing that together we are working towards similar goals and building a future on our land for our children…well…it doesn’t get much better than that.
Eight years ago next week we stepped off the plane with a vision and a dream. And we landed in Neve Daniel.
It’s actually our 16th wedding anniversary today, which means that we’ve spent exactly half of our married life living in Israel.
Since then, we have added four boys to the yishuv and to the country; we’ve brought some of our closest friends to live by us from the States; and we’ve built a life that includes a love of Torah learning, of Eretz Yisrael and of each other.
While sitting on the grass with over 800 people last night and listening to the four year old nursery class perform, I was thinking about how truly blessed we are. Celebrating the Yishuv’s birthday, we were sitting behind Stella and Yarden Frankl (who followed us on Aliyah 7 years ago) and sitting in front of Ellen and Amos Levi (who joined us in Neve Daniel 6 years ago); celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary and our 8th anniversary of Aliyah, we were surrounded by our six growing boys and embraced by a growing, vibrant yishuv of people working together to build our country.
May we continue to grow together as a community as we raise our children on their soil and witness the changes that they – and our small little piece of Eretz Yisrael – undergo in the coming years.